Critical Thinking Activities

These critical thinking activities will boost your critical thinking skills. They will help you:

  • make observations.
  • listen attentively to others.
  • recognize and define problems.
  • be curious, ask relevant questions and use multiple resources to find facts.
  • challenge and examine beliefs, assumptions and opinions.
  • assess the validity of statements and arguments.
  • know the difference between logical and illogical arguments.
  • make wise decisions and judgments.
  • find valid solutions.

Using critical thinking will help you lead a more stress free life because you will be able to make decisions more easily and confidently. You will boost your self esteem with more confident, clear and objective thinking. 

Have a look at critical thinking definition for more information on this topic.

"The less you know, the more you think you know, because you don't know you don't know."
 Ray Stevens

How to Recognize a Problem

If you want to begin to think critically in order to solve problems, you first need to recognize that there is a problem. Then you'll want to decide how important it is.

Here is your critical thinking activity. Recognize if your problem is simple or complex. Let’s say your car is low on gas. You have a problem. But the solution is simple. You just fill your gas tank. But imagine that someone at your workplace is underperforming. That is a complex problem and depending on the business, it could be a big problem, especially if the person has a lot of responsibilities affecting people’s safety. Is your problem simple or complicated?

You can recognize a severe or complex problem if it has characteristics that:

  1. Need an immediate solution.
  2. Need help from other people.
  3. Lack of immediate action will have difficult consequences.

 Examples of severe or complex problems: 

  • A pipe in your home has burst.
  • Your child has fallen and has a bad gash in his forehead.
  • A colleague is very depressed.

 One of the critical thinking activities then is to make a note of a problem that is troubling you. Decide whether it is a complicated problem or not based on the information above.

"An education isn't how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It's being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don't."
 Anatole France

How to Define a Problem


In critical thinking activities, sometimes problems are real and sometimes they simply look real. Here’s how to know the difference:

  • Get the best accurate information possible from a variety of sources. Avoid jumping to conclusions. Accept the problem. Avoid resisting it. Put energy into finding solutions. 
  • Focus your observation by being aware of what is going on around you. With awareness, you can see problems at home, at work, at school and in the community. With awareness, you can be a part of the problem solving process.

 Your critical thinking activity is to practice using your senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. These are your contacts with the outside world. With information from your environment, you are better able to make decisions. This means you need to concentrate on the information around you.

 For example, you take your car in for repairs. The mechanic had just been hired and you don’t know his or her work. You might ask to watch the repair work or talk with the mechanic after the work is done to determine if s/he has good knowledge and experience.

Tips for focused observation

  • Concentrate by giving the problem complete attention.
  • Create a context by looking at the whole problem and not a particular part.
  • Be thorough. 

"The empty vessel makes the greatest sound"
 William Shakespeare

  Brainstorming with Graphic Organizers

Brainstorming is an important critical thinking skill and one of the major critical thinking activities. Concept maps, word webs or mind maps and Venn diagrams are called graphic organizers because they help you organize your thinking visually or graphically. They are helpful for brainstorming and finding solutions to problems.

Graphic organizers are more effective than lists because they:

  • Display complex information.
  • Help you see patterns and methods in your thinking.
  • Help you gather and compress information.
  • Keep you focused on the problem.
  • Show you what you still need to find out.
  • Help you interpret your thoughts and ideas. 

Concept map 

In critical thinking activities, use a concept map when the topic is not complex. For example, you need to find solutions for a home renovation project. Use a concept map to figure out a solution. You can see that this type of map is made of circles. In the top circle you would write "renovation project." In the circles below, write solutions for your problem. by using this type of graphic organizer as a critical thinking activity, the solution will be more clear.

Mind maps

Mind maps or webs are more complex than concept maps. The mindmapping image shows you how to create one. It's similar to a concept map. But with the web or mind map, you create more circle from the smaller ones. This allows more creative thinking and creating sub categories of solutions connected to the main ones.


Find out how to create a mind map now. 

Venn diagrams

Venn diagrams show the relationship among a group of objects that have something in common. They also help with problem solving. For example, a couple of years ago my husband and I got fed up with the weeds in our flower gardens around the house. The problem was causing us too much work, stress and conflict. So we created a Venn diagram. 

It had three circles with a solution in each one: get rid of the gardens, hire help to weed, hire a landscape gardener to redesign the gardens. We choose the third option, ripped up the gardens, replanted them all, added topsoil and mulch and this year are sitting back and enjoying our effort!

To create a Venn diagram, draw three overlapping circles. In each circle write one solution to your problem. In the part that overlaps, write a potential drawback. From the information on your diagram, make the decision for your problem. 

We relied on critical thinking activities then.

Another of the best critical thinking activities is to decide which graphic organizer is the best to solve your problem. Practice using graphic organizers. It gets easier each time.


Setting Goals

 Making a plan or setting a goal is one of the best ways to solve a problem. For top information, check out goal setting. It is one of the important critical thinking activities.

Troubleshooting


Sometimes things can go wrong during the problem solving or goal setting process. Stumbling blocks or obstacles can rear their ugly heads. Knowing how to troubleshoot helps you see problems before they occur and resolve them before they get too big. It one of the best of the critical thinking activities.

Let’s say you have three job interviews in one day. With traffic congestion you might not make all of them on time. You could make the decision to take the chance. But being late for an interview looks bad and is stressful. By taking the time to think this through and look objectively at commuting times might make you decide to phone one or more of the interviewers and ask for a different time slot. This solution might take courage.

But it’s worth the effort in the long run. A successful decision like this will boost your self esteem and make another decision in the future easier. Practice makes perfect as they say.

Evaluating Facts

Knowing the difference between a fact and an opinion is essential for making a sound decision and one of the very important critical thinking activities. Also knowing whether the information is objective rather than personal and perhaps false or biased is an important stage in problem solving, analysis and decision making.

Always know that a fact can be verified. An opinion may be based on fact, but it is after all someone’s perspective on the fact. For example, Bill Clinton was president of the United States is a fact. Bill Clinton was a good president is the opinion of the speaker. To prove he was president is easy. To prove he was a good president would require supporting evidence.

Top Ways to Evaluate Facts

  • Know the source of the information. What is the agenda of the person or organization providing the information? Are they trying to change readers’ or listeners’ views?
  • What are the author’s credentials – educational background, experience? Is the person reputable, knowledgeable and honest?
  • Are sources given for the information? Are reliable studies given?
  • Are the sources balanced and reputable? If the footnotes or person quoted is only from one side of the issue, then question the material’s value.
  • What do other people say about the individual or organization? Conduct an internet search and obtain at least three creditable sources before believing information you hear or read. 

"To treat your facts with imagination is one thing, but to imagine your facts is another."
 John Burroughs

Persuasive Techniques

Advertisers and politicians try to gain our support. We are familiar with these kinds of persuasion. Persuasion involves using argument, reasoning or influence to change someone’s point of view. Systematic, organized persuasion is called propaganda.

You probably used persuasion with your parents as you were growing up to get them to purchase something or get the family car for an evening out.

During a job interview, you are trying to persuade the interviewers to hire you. You might be starting a small non profit organization for a worthy cause. You will want people to support your cause.

How you can use persuasion effectively.

  • Grab people’s attention by being confident and reasonable. Join Toastmasters, the public speaking organization to become a convincing effective speaker.
  • Be sincere. You will want to convince people that what you are saying is believable. Use evidence and examples to gain support.
  • Be personal.
  • Know your audience and purpose. When you know the opinion of the person or organization you are trying to persuade, you can tailor your information. Give reasons why they should buy in to your point of view. If the person or audience is against whatever it is you are trying to accomplish, you will have to have a convincing argument. Use your critical thinking skills here.
  • Understand and acknowledge your audience’s concerns and address them. 

The Numbers Game

Numbers sometimes lie especially when people are trying to convince you to buy or do something. Surveys can be manipulated by authors, politicians, advertisers and businesses. So we need to use our reasoning skills to know the accuracy of numbers. Numbers are important aspects of critical thinking activities.

An accurate survey uses large numbers of random people similar to the target audience. The survey should ask objective, nonthreatening, non biased questions.

Checking Your Emotions

Emotions are important in critical thinking. But decisions should never be made based on emotion alone.

Here’s what to do when emotions take over your decision making process.

  • Recognize the problem.
  • Define the problem
  • Learn more about the problem.
  • Brainstorm possible solutions.
  • Choose a solution and set goals.
  • Troubleshoot problems that might get in the way.
  • Try out the solution and assess the results.

If you discover during the process that your emotions are getting in the way of may good objective decisions, one of the solid critical thinking activities is to take a close look at why your emotions are a problem. 

 "Never ignore a gut feeling, but never believe that it's enough."
 Kermit the Frog 

Deductive Reasoning

Deductive reasoning is an argument based on two facts or premises. If both facts are true, then it should follow that the conclusion is true. But if the premises are not valid, then the conclusion will not be accurate. So watch out for invalid premises here.

Inductive Reasoning

Inductive arguments are based on common sense or past experience. This kind of argument moves from specific facts to general conclusions.

Making Judgment Calls

Sometimes you will have a problem for which there is no right or wrong answer. For example, you might have to decide whether you should loan money to a friend or make an investment.

Here are some characteristics of judgment calls:

  • The stakes are high.
  • The information you need is incomplete.
  • Informed people disagree about the call.
  • There are often ethical dilemmas an conflicting values.          

Use these critical thinking activities to solve your problems, make decisions and analyze material. You'll find that with practice you'll feel more confident and assured. Your self esteem will be higher because you will rely less on your emotions to make decisions and react to situations. 

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